Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

Twittering from the front-lines

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Who remembers the Google Wars website that was doing the viral rounds a few years back – a mildly amusing, non-scientific snapshot of the search-driven, internet world we live in?

It lives on at www.googlebattle.com where you can enter two search terms, say ‘Lennon vs. McCartney’ or ‘Left vs. Right’, and let the internet pick a winner by the number of search hits each word gets.

As we reported here – the virtual world has become a real battleground in the ongoing Gaza conflict – with all sides deploying significant resources.

For Israel – where hasbara or PR has often been frowned upon as unnecessary pandering to international opinion that never turns in Israel’s favour anyway – the second Lebanon war underlined the need for a coherent media and PR strategy coordinated at the centre of government.

Gaza war – Early test for Obama?

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The slow pace of talks between Hamas and Egyptian mediators on Cairo’s proposal for a Gaza ceasefire is raising speculation in Israel over whether the Islamist group is playing for time, hoping to get a better deal once Barack Obama is sworn in as U.S. president on Tuesday.

Israel also has been in no rush to call off the offensive it began on Dec. 27 with the declared aim of ending Hamas rocket attacks on its southern towns.

Samson in Gaza

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Gaza was the place where, in Biblical times, the Jewish hero Samson took up with a harlot. That was before he met Delilah and, succumbing at last to her charms and tricks, revealed the secret of his strength. Shorn of his curly locks while he slept, Samson lost his superhuman strength. He was taken to Gaza and blinded by the Philistines with a white-hot poker. But his hair, and his strength, gradually grew back unnoticed, and at last Samson pushed over a pillar in their temple and brought the building down upon them, killing many. Or so the Bible story goes.

After 38 years of military occupation, Israel handed Gaza back to the Palestinians in 2005. But it has not led to peace. Hamas Islamist militants opposed to the Jewish state in 2007 ousted those Palestinians disposed to make peace with Israel, and have fired crude but potentially lethal rockets into the land lying to the east for months, in a constant skirmish with the Israelis. Israel struck hard with an aerial offensive a week ago.

Bibi’s back as flak

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Saying he was answering a request from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to help out with Israel’s “PR”, or public relations, during its current Gaza offensive against Hamas, right-wing Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu gave a series of interviews to foreign media on Tuesday, including Reuters in
Jerusalem.

It’s not every day that a leader of a country’s main opposition party serves as what journalists call a “flak”, or PR spokesman, in support of political rivals.

A Braveheart Christmas in the Holy Land

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In the big battle scene in the movie Braveheart, terrified whispers ran up and down the ragged ranks of sword-waving Scots that the English were ranged before them with “500 heavy horse” – armoured cavalry of devastating power in those days.

But the wild-haired hero-general William Wallace (actor-director Mel Gibson) rode his pony up and down the front ranks shouting: “We don’t have to beat them. We just have to fight them!”

Gaza breakfast turns to horror

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Saturday is my day off from being Reuters correspondent in Gaza and I usually sleep until noon.  This Saturday things didn’t go to plan.

My 7-year-old son Abdel-Rahman and his sister Dalia, who is 12, came home early from school, as they have been doing their mid-term exams, to wake me up and ask me to take them for breakfast at a seafront restaurant not far from Gaza’s port.

Journalists make news over Gaza

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Once again access to the Gaza Strip is in the news. This time, perhaps a little self-servingly, because foreign journalists are being denied access to Gaza by Israeli authorities.

The Foreign Press Association, which represents the collective interests of the international media covering the news in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, has filed a law suit with the Supreme Court demanding Israel lifts its ban on journalists entering Gaza. It has been in force for nearly three weeks, since violence flared with Israeli army raids and air strikes and Palestinian “Kassam” rocket fire from the coastal enclave.

Can Gaza ceasefire hold?

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The Gaza Strip and the Israeli towns and farms surrounding the Palestinian enclave spent a quiet morning on Thursday after a ceasefire deal came into force after dawn between the Jewish state and the  Hamas Islamists who rule Gaza’s 1.5 million people. The absence of mortars and improvised rockets falling on the Israeli side of the border and of Israeli air strikes and ground incursions on the other were welcomed by ordinary people. For Palestinians in Gaza, the biggest hope is an increase in supplies which Israel has kept under tight blockade since Hamas seized control a year ago.
Palestinian police play footballBoth sides, as well as Egypt which mediated the deal over several months and the international powers, have plenty of reasons to see the truce work . The UN even told Reuters it could help pave the way for UN peacekeepers in Gaza.  But equally there are plenty on all sides who are already saying it is as doomed as previous “calms” between Israel and Hamas, which has been shunned by Western powers for its refusal to give up violent tactics such as suicide bombings and Gaza rocket salvos. Not least among the apparent pessimists has been Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who has warned the peace may be short-lived. Olmert has plenty of critics who would happily use that adjective of his own career – the prime minister has promised to resign if he is indicted in a corruption investigation that has already seen an American businessman testify to handing Olmert large sums of cash stuffed in envelopes. The premier has survived a series of such scandals in his two and a half years in power and he again denies all wrongdoing. However, his enemies, including within his own coalition government, are circling and could vote next week to dissolve parliament and start the process of triggering an early election .Olmert gestures in Knesset

So how is Olmert fighting back? By making himself seem indispensable to Israelis as a peacemaker on all fronts, some say. As well as U.S.-sponsored talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, begun last November,  he has lately revealed Turkish-mediated talks with Syria, a desire to open negotiations with Lebanon and progress in talks with Hezbollah on exchanging prisoners. Not to mention today’s truce with Hamas. So can Olmert stave off the public prosecutor and keep the peace?

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